Can I Ask You A Question?


Women are controlled (If you were any good you’d be thin)

Are mistrusted – (FGM)

Are to be feared (otherwise educate them – why not if they’re not up to much?)

Are to be objectified (child brides/super models)

And yet… They feel powerless.

Why?

Why when the establishment everywhere and every time seems to see women as so powerful they must be constantly controlled, why are women the only ones who can’t see this power?

Imagine what might happen if that power was unleashed?  Not power as we know it where women are ‘powerful’ if they are like men or liked by men.  But the real, thumping, all-encompassing, generative, protective power of real women.

Imagine what might happen?

Imagine – for example – in places where a girl who is raped must kill herself to restore her family’s honour, if the mothers in these places not only tried to protect their daughters but said to their sons – “Marry her son, she’s been raped but that is something that was done to her, not by her and so her honour is clearly intact – which is more than can be said of the men who raped her.  I am your mother and I am not just standing up for her, I am also really standing up for you.  I am trying to teach you that it’s always the perpetrators who are the guilty ones – not the victims.  Always.  I want you to understand this son because I want to make sure that your honour remains intact.  Because I love you.”

Imagine if that happened.

What’s stopping it?

One of The Most Widespread of All Human Rights Abuses…


In 2008 a ten year old girl in Yemen, Nujood Ali, succeeded in obtaining a divorce from the husband who beat and raped her.  She has been allowed to divorce but has to pay more than $200 in compensation to her husband.

In 2009 a twelve year old girl, Fawziya Ammodi – also in Yemen – died after three days of excruciatingly painful childbirth.

Her baby also died.

Obviously legal protection is needed to shield girls like these against being traded and married and abused.  But the real key to the end of this suffering is education.

We need to become creative about how we might deliver education to the child brides that survive their awful experiences and then, at least, there will be a hope that their daughters will be spared the same fate.

If you are interested in this horrendous abuse of little girls then you may also be interested in  a study called – The Worst Places to Be a Woman – Mapping the places where the war on women is still being fought.  This study is by Valerie M. Hudson who is professor and George H.W. Bush chair in the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University.  It makes interesting reading –
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http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/meast/08/26/yemen.divorce/index.html

http://articles.cnn.com/2009-09-14/health/yemen.childbirth.death_1_minimum-marriage-age-child-marriages-child-brides?_s=PM:HEALTH

Stranger Danger


Have you ever sat into a stranger’s car by accident? 

I’ve done it lots of times.

I spent most of my life thinking it was commonplace – thinking that it happened to everybody – until I told my sister a couple of years ago. She explained – between screams of laughter – that No. Everybody doesn’t sit into stranger’s cars. No. No. No. She has never done it. And no it isn’t commonplace.

I was surprised.

Even though I know they’re not reading, I’d like to take this opportunity to apologise to all those unsuspecting and terrified looking men behind the wheel of the many cars I have jumped into – uninvited – over the years. All those men innocently sitting behind their own steering wheels, after children’s football matches and in supermarket car parks and outside small shops parked on double-yellow lines. I now realise that the look on their faces and their white knuckled hands on the steering wheel were not to do with the cold weather or gentle surprise but rather because they thought they were being hijacked by a (very) strange woman. Sorry.

In this conversation with my sister I also discovered that it is also not all that common to sit into the driver’s seat of stranger’s empty cars in filling stations. That – to be frank – was a real killer.

I once sat into a very swanky car in a crowded filling station after paying for my petrol (gas to my American friends). I sat in and struggled for a few seconds to get the key in the ignition. Then I realised my mistake and had to get out and walk back to my much humbler vehicle while the people filling up their cars with fuel looked on in amusement. Some of them even laughed. I flicked my head and acted like I had meant to sit into the swanky car. Such a rebel. Such a joker. Such a daredevil. Such a felon. Nobody was fooled.

I have done this sitting-into-the-driver’s-seat-of-the-wrong-car-after-paying-for-my-petrol thing lots of times, but the weidest of all was when I sat into a car and my knees hit the steering wheel. I am a tallish woman (5’8″ – or 1.73 metres to my European friends). Did I think – “Oh no, I must be in the wrong car!”

No.

I am embarrassed to say that exactly what I thought was – “Who moved the seat in my car for goodness sake!”

Which proves to me that my default position in the world is that I am right.

I come from a long line of people who think they are right (including that sister by the way even though she might deny it). Engage any of us in conversation and we’ll tell you that of course we know we aren’t always right. That we know we can make mistakes. That we are fallible and always learning.

But you know what they say – what does being wrong feel like? The same as being right – until you realise that nobody moved the seat of your car and in fact you are sitting into some other (probably) woman’s car and if she sees you she’ll think you’re trying to steal her car. Even if it isn’t very swanky.

Beautiful


We are all convinced that our conception of beauty is natural. We think we like what we like, nobody teaches us what to like, either people are beautiful or they aren’t.

But is that really the case?

P.S. All of these girls look absolutely beautiful to me.

Desmond Tutu’s Message on Child Marriage


A message to men and boys about child marriage

A few months ago, in Northern Ethiopia, I met a group of young women who had been married around the age of 10 or 12. Many of them had their first children at 13 or 14. It was shocking for me to realise that there are millions of girls around the world who suffer the same fate every year.

I have to confess that I was simply not aware of the scale and impact of child marriage. 10 million girls a year, 25,000 girls a day, are married without any say in the matter, to men who are often much older than they are. These girls almost always drop out of school to attend to household chores, and when they become young mothers themselves face serious dangers of injury and even death in pregnancy and childbirth. Child marriage robs girls of their childhood, of their basic rights to education, security and health.

I thought I had a pretty good idea of the human rights landscape on this precious earth we share. What I have realised is that these girls are invisible and voiceless, making them some of the most vulnerable, disempowered people on our planet.

Child marriage occurs because we men allow it

It is not enough for me to simply say that their voices should be heard, that more money needs to go towards girls’ education or health services and be done with it. That alone will not change what happens to child brides.

Child marriage occurs because we men allow it. Fathers, village chiefs, religious leaders, decision-makers – most are male. In order for this harmful practice to end, we need to enlist the support of all the men who know this is wrong, and work together to persuade all those who don’t. I met religious leaders in Ethiopia, both Orthodox and Muslim, who speak out publicly against child marriage and teach their flocks that neither Christianity nor Islam endorses child marriage.

I want to find more faith leaders like them, men who will say that child marriage is wrong and should end. I want to find political leaders – also mostly men – and persuade them to empower girls, invest in them, and see the positive transformation that will occur throughout their societies as a result.

Harmful traditions must be challenged

I want to encourage boys to stand up for their sisters, and say that girls have the same rights to go to school, to develop and be everything they can be.

Child marriage is not a religious practice – it is a tradition. There are many good traditions that bind communities together. But traditions are also not static – they evolve. Traditions that are harmful, that have outlived their purpose, must be challenged.

Foot binding disappeared once social views about it were challenged and it was outlawed. Slavery was also defended as a ‘way of life’ – repugnant as that sounds. I remember those who defended apartheid on ‘cultural’ grounds. All these practices have, thankfully, largely disappeared.

Child marriage is also declining – but far too slowly.

Child marriage is not a ‘women’s issue’

At current rates 100 million more girls will be married in the coming decade.

We men cannot treat child marriage as a ‘women’s issue’ and avoid talking about the more sensitive issues associated with it; the sheer scale of this practice demands attention at the highest levels.

The world is blessed with the largest generation of young people in history. Imagine what would happen if the girls of this generation all go to school and had the chance to become teachers, doctors, businesswomen, politicians, religious leaders.

We men have to be bold, to speak the truth and stand up for the rights of girls and women to equality, dignity and the rights we all share.

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http://www.theelders.org/article/message-men-and-boys-about-child-marriage